As you no doubt have heard, the Germans have banned the Nazi party. It wasn’t a decision grounded in some academic principle or an over-abundance of political correctness about hate speech and the like. It’s because the country succumbed to a madness that plunged the world into war and made the German people the authors of staggering genocide. With an abundance of soul-searching, self-awareness, and well-earned shame they opted to ban organizations that profess a desire to return to such horrors. It’s part of their effort to ensure the phrase “never again” has meaning.
But don’t tell that to John Kerry, who seems to have a sophomore’s grasp of the issues involved. In his first trip to Germany, he felt the need to brag about how in America you can be a neo-Nazi if you want. From the Jewish Press:
“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.”
Then Kerry really turned it on, telling his audience how in the land of the free neo Nazis are permitted to strut in their jackboots and swastika wherever they feel like, even in the Jewish suburbs of Chicago. This is how Mr. sensitivity phrased it:
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another.”
Now, I do believe in the United States that neo-Nazis have the right to free speech, though I also think there is room for reasonable limitations on that speech as well. But America is not Germany. What I find ridiculous is the way Kerry feels the need to lecture Germans about such things. I mean, what is the point, beyond preening in senatorial fashion? I am all in favor of democracy promotion and singing the praises of free expression. But getting the Germans to be more tolerant of Nazi propagandizing is low on my list of priorities. Really, really, really low. Let’s see if he’s willing to give a similar talk about religious freedom and tolerance in Saudi Arabia. My hunch is that he’d be much quicker to respect the cultural distinctiveness of Saudi attitudes.